That bleary-eyed, foggy-brained feeling of “Zoom fatigue” is a widely accepted pandemic phenomenon—but how can you prevent it? And what exactly causes it?
Researchers at Stanford University just released the first peer-reviewed, psychological study of Zoom fatigue, and its results are surprising. Researchers found four quite different causes, as well as helpful solutions for each:
1. CLOSE-UP EYE CONTACT IS EXHAUSTING
In a typical Zoom discussion, the amount of intensive eye contact far exceeds what you would experience in real-life interactions. Think about it: When you take a walk-and-talk with a friend, you might have mere moments of eye contact; in a conference room, listeners look at their screens and their notes or gaze out the window. At the same time, Zoom faces are typically larger and closer than you’d experience in real-life work discussions, which fool your mind into perceiving an intensely intimate conversation. “In effect, you’re in this hyperaroused state,” says Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.
The fix: Minimize the face sizes of attendees into grid view, and sit back a bit to allow yourself more personal space.
2. WATCHING YOURSELF IS EXHAUSTING
In real life, you are not followed by a mirror, and you might spend five minutes a day looking at your reflection. The researchers cite studies showing that when seeing one’s own reflection, people are more critical of themselves. “It’s taxing on us. It’s stressful. And there’s lots of research showing that there are negative emotional consequences to seeing yourself in a mirror,” says Bailenson.
The fix: Confirm that your lighting and setup look good, and then adjust the settings to hide your view of yourself.